Manga Video // 1997 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // June 24th, 2003
A hole within the void, leading to world destruction.
Judge Rob sits in his chamber late at night. He has inherited an old case. Repeat offender. The judge loosens his tie, pours another cup of coffee, and looks through the case notes from the honorable Judge Pinsky.
..."...a team of armor-suited warriors defends Earth as part of a government-backed group called STAND. Oh no, it is not like NERV at all -- by which I mean that they are exactly like NERV only with different uniforms."
Yep. Having recently watched the Neon Genesis Evangelion series from beginning to end, I second the judgment: Virus Buster Serge borrows so heavily from NGE that I could show you where they copied certain shots. I had an odd sense of dejà vu watching Virus Buster Serge. It is like Neon Genesis Evangelion without humor, intensity, flirtation, or weight.
"But Virus does its damnedest not to have any fun. And the dour tone makes the show drag. I cannot honestly say I particularly disliked this series, but it just goes through the motions."
He may not have been able to say it, but I can: I disliked this series. To be perfectly fair, I have not seen the first eight episodes. I entered Virus Buster Serge in the infamous third act, where most anime devolves into ultra-weird trip-a-delic hoopla. Had I started watching Evangelion in the third act, I would have turned off the TV never to watch again. I have to allow for the confusion angle, and honestly admit that I never got to know these extremely generic looking characters.
Thus, I rely on the trusty notes of the honorable Judge Pinsky for a foundation for this prosecution. My neck is sore from nodding so much in agreement. "Uninspired" sums it up best.
The animation isn't completely terrible, but it doesn't grab you either. For starters, there are numerous specks and dirt on the cels; during rudimentary animation sequences there are often crawling black specs. Hues are generally washed out. The transfer is overly soft, and the image suffers from constant judder. Aside from the technical flaws, the actual artwork is so done. Virus Buster Serge breaks no new ground. Sonically it fares a bit better, with a halfway decent surround track.
Ironically, I thought of the Village People when I watched the opening credits: low and behold I read this: "This show is looking more like a cyberpunk Village People with every episode." The characters do not exist outside of the clichés they represent. Of particular note is Serge himself, who is a synthesis of Shinji Ikari's reticence and Rei Ayanami's background. Characters spend most of their time saying each other's names in meaningful sounding tones. "Serge." "Raven." "Serge!" "Erika..."
Why is the Pink Power Ranger running around?
The plot was indecipherably dull, yet I predicted the cliffhangers as though they were reruns. Remarkable that I could jump into a series I'd missed most of and predict (with 100% accuracy) who would betray who when and get saved by which supposedly dead character. And maybe it is a sign of growing unrest with technobabble, but I'm just not impressed when characters synthesize the oscillation threshold. A level five battle is no more impressive to me than a level three battle. I do not fear the capabilities of the "crimson skirmish cloak of invulnerability."
The only extra of note is the "interview" with director Masami Obari. An ineloquent "interviewer," who seems to have no prepared questions, sits across from the director and his translator. A huge poster dwarfs most of the composition. The interviewer asked a lame opening question and Masami took over from there. The interviewer was periodically taken by surprise when Masami stopped talking and realized he was supposed to ask another question. The interview shed little real light, except to say that Masami found it difficult to work under the time constraints imposed by television. The most interesting person by far was the charismatic translator.
"The energy level on the show seems forced, punched up artificially by grinding guitar riffs and strobe lighting during the action scenes. Virus is so routine, you may find it feels longer than it actually is."
Emphatic nods here! There isn't much drama in the action, so they throw in mood lighting. The girls have little sensuality on their own, so they all have enormous pneumatic breasts. The men aren't intimidating in and of themselves, so they brood and scowl all the more.
By the time the sweeping music indicated the finale, the characters had called each other's names sorrowfully for a few minutes, and the dutifully mysterious ending had wrapped, I felt pretty much the same as I had before sitting down...with the exception of a slight headache. With all of the high quality animation out there, no need to invest in derivative stuff.
Review content copyright © 2003 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Manga Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, dubbed)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, dubbed)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese, original language)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview with Director Masami Obari
* Commercial Break Boards
* S.T.A.N.D. Files
* Virus Preview